We always knew that our mood affects how we walk. Now, a fascinating study reveals that our walk can also disclose whether a person is happy or sad.
It found that people who were prompted to walk in a more depressed style – with less arm movement and shoulders rolled forward – experienced worse moods than those who were induced to walk in a happier style.
“It is not surprising that our mood and the way we feel affects how we walk but we want to see whether the way we move also affects how we feel,” said Nikolaus Troje from Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.
For the study, the researchers showed participants a list of positive and negative words such as “pretty,” “afraid” and “anxious” and then asked them to walk on a treadmill while they measured their gait and posture.
A screen showed the subjects a gauge that moved left or right depending on whether their walking style was more depressed or happier.
The subjects did not know what the gauge was measuring.
Researchers told some subjects to try and move the gauge left, while others were told to move it right.
Afterwards, participants had to write down as many words as they could remember from the earlier list of positive and negative words.
“Those who had been walking in a depressed style remembered many more negative words. The difference in recall suggests that the depressed walking style actually created a more depressed mood,” Troje explained.
Clinically depressed patients are known to remember negative events and remembering the bad make them feel even worse.
“If you can break that self-perpetuating cycle, you might have a strong therapeutic tool to work with depressive patients,” researchers noted.
The study was published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.